Sometimes I Wish We All Weren’t So “Christian”

This is a guest post by Wendy van Eyck

I sometimes struggle to talk to people who believe in Jesus.

Sometimes I wish my friends didn’t sound so Christian. Sometimes I wish they’d tell me how they feel instead of telling me what they think I want to hear.

I find it hard because I don’t always feel like we can have a conversation about really matters to them.

Often it feels like we are all trying to sound “Christian” rather than “human”.

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I know from experience how tempting it is to brush people off with a “Christian” sounding, “Yes, what I am going through is hard, but God sustains me.”

I learnt through holding my husband’s hand through two years of cancer treatment, that speaking words that sound “Christian” prevents people from being Jesus’ hands and feet to us.

I think when I read Matthew 5: 3-5 in the Message this really clicked for me:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can the One dearest to you embrace you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

Those don’t sound a lot like descriptions of people who have it all together. They read more like descriptions of me on my best days.

It sounds like the kind of person who would be good friends with the biblical Job, the kind of person who understands the despair David wrote of in the Psalms.

It sounds like the kind of person who would just come straight out and say, “I don’t know how I’m going to get out of the mess I’m in.”

It sounds like the kind of person who lives openly with brokenness.

It sounds like the kind of person who isn’t out to impress God, or anyone, with holiness.

It sounds like the kind of person who accepts being a Christian is more about what God does in a person than being perfect.

It sounds like the kind of person I want to be.

And I’m realizing that if I want to have the kind of conversations, with people who believe in Jesus, that go beyond “praise God” and “Amen”, I need to start giving honest answers myself. And as I live with honesty in my brokenness maybe it’ll encourage others to share what’s on their hearts.

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  • As I live with honesty in my brokenness maybe it’ll encourage others to share what’s on their hearts [Click to Tweet]

wendy van eyckCheck out Wendy’s blog here. She writes devotionals about finding God in ordinary moments. In an inspiring way, she also writes about her and her husband, Xylon’s journey as Xylon fought cancer.
Thanks for stopping by Wendy!

My Convenience And ‘Their’ Commitment

I’m looking into the book of Acts as part of my theology studies. I’ve never seen things in it the way I have the last few weeks. It is amazing what God can do with people fully yielded to Him.

It is amazing what happens when the Spirit of God is allowed full reign in the lives of the disciples in the early Church. Peter boldly speaks and 3,000 people repent and are baptised (Acts 2:14-41).

Peter and John challenge the authorities with no fear (Acts 4:1-31). They speak God’s message with boldness. Philip follows the leading of the Holy and baptises the first gentile and he is translated to another location (Acts 8:26-40).

The dead are brought to life; people are set free from oppressing spirits… There are many things God did through ordinary people, empowered by His Spirit.

I’m excited; challenged and freaking out as I read the amazing accounts of the early Church.

My Convenience And Their Commitment

I pray God would use me like how He did with some of the followers of the Way in those early days. Then I cower. Do I really have the commitment of the early Church? Would I be willing to drink death’s cup through stoning, like Stephen?

Can I get up from a beating and proceed to preach in the next town like Paul? Can I really stand before dignitaries and tell them to go jump off a cliff because my commitment is to God’s cause like Peter and John did?

I am privileged to be in a nation where I don’t get persecuted for my faith. As I think further, many Christ followers around the world live with persecution as it was for the early Church.

The questions I ask myself have to do with what I am willing to do for God. Perhaps I have it twisted. Perhaps the question I should be asking is, “how yielded to God am I?”

What is the extent of my surrender to God and His purposes for all people? Am I surrendered to God to such an extent where nothing is an inconvenience to me?

My convenience and comfort sometimes seem to have more of my allegiance than the purposes of God… May I be so given to Him, His glory and purposes…

God, as I pray, would you give me courage to pray. Give me courage to live a life fully surrendered to you. Because how I’m spent will not matter when I am that, surrendered… No greater prayer could I ever pray… Amen.

[Photo Credit: Dietmar Becker on Unplash]

My Opinions And God’s Will / Plans For Others

My Opinions And God’s Will Plans For Others

I have opinions. Many opinions. I sometimes think I know more than I really do. Sometimes I convince myself of that. At other times I am so blinded by “my convictions” (whatever that is).

I blindly believe and act according to what I think is best. I do this for me… The sad thing is that I also impose this on others, as well. And, worst of all, I try to recruit God to my side of the “judgment lines“, when He doesn’t do what I think He should be. Like He needs to be convinced I’m right… There are times I’ve had my opinions about others and God’s will for their lives.

In some instances I’ve felt God shouldn’t be doing some things through some people. Either because I (strongly) felt they just weren’t “wired” for it. I justified their failures as validation for inadequacies I perceived in them. As if God didn’t already know what they could and couldn’t do. As if He was blind, like when parents think the world of one child and treat the other as a demon of sort.

My Opinions And God’s Will Plans For Others

You know when the “angel of a sibling” does nothing wrong and mom and dad don’t believe the “bad one” when he or she reports a bad incident perpetrated by the “angel”?

I cry foul when God seems unfair, when He is actually being gracious to others [Click to Tweet]

Like Jonah, the one in the Bible, I fight God on His will for people. Jonah was upset that God wanted to show mercy on Nineveh. He was livid that God showed mercy to “bad people” (Jonah 4:1-4).

Some translations of the Bible say that Jonah was “displeased”, but when I read around that, “displeasure” is way too mild. His reaction, to go out of the city and ask God to kill him, “displeasure”? Yeah right! Jonah was livid! Infuriated!

Reading Philip Yancey’s, “What’s So Amazing About Grace” challenged my view of grace. It helped me understand a little more just how gracious God is and can be.

However, there are other instances, where I have, in different ways, God’s will and plans for others. Why did God not take my opinions on the people or the situations?

God seems to remind me that my opinions of other people and what He should do don’t really count. For that I’m often infuriated. Infuriated, like the brother who stayed home, in Jesus story. You know, the brother who didn’t squander his part of the inheritance from the father who was still alive…

I guess there are instances where I have been that older brother. The one who was more upset with God’s grace on others despite how they dissed Him.

And, ironically, also relieved.

Relieved that God doesn’t act like how my sometimes, depraved mind and emotions sometimes want Him to. That His grace goes beyond what I think. The thing is, if He had to do that for others, like how I sometimes think He should, then He would also need to withdraw His to / from me. His grace that I’m in always desperate need for.

What makes me think God needs my wisdom on dealing with people He made, knows and loves infinity multiplied by infinity forever, more than me.

God’s plans, for others aren’t dependent on my opinion of them or their circumstance [Click to Tweet]

This, as I’ve written about it in the past, sometimes gets in the way of my assignments as God send me to others. My opinions are often a hindrance to encouraging others to fully commit to what they feel God is leading them to.

Somehow I’ve been reminded of how my opinions, our opinions cause people to be hesitant in being completely given to what God wants of them. We can easily and nastily get in the way.

That’s what the Pharisees and Sadducees did in Jesus’ time. They somehow, made themselves the standards gatekeepers. They exalted their opinions above God’s love and plans for others. When I join them. Do like “them“.

God, forgive me. Help me remember, keep this at the fore of my mind: Your will, grace and plans for others doesn’t depend on my opinions or feelings. May you help me (and all Christ followers) to not have opinions but discern Your will for others and be a part of it where and if we need to be. Amen.

[Photo Credit: David Restivo]

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

I borrowed the tittle of this post from Mark Batterson‘s book, “In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day“. What I will share with you in this post is about something that struck a great chord in me. Particularly also due to my earlier post, More, Deeper Than A Craft.

I get this from Mark who got it from Ted Loder’s book, “Guerillas of Grace“. It is about how prayer is way more than what we have reduced it to. May it resonate with you, the way it has with me:

How shall I pray?

Are tears prayers, Lord?

Are screams prayers,

Or groans

or sighs

or curses?

Can trembling hands be lifted to you,

or clenched fists

or the cold sweat that trickles down my back

or the cramps that knot my stomach?

Will You accept my prayers, Lord,

my real prayers,

rooted in the much and much and rock of my life,

and not just the pretty, cut-flower, gracefully arranged

bouquet of words?

Will you accept me, Lord,

as I really am,

messed up mixture of glory and grime?

This prayer about prayer is so liberating. It gives a perspective and depth to prayer that I feel we have undermined and overlooked. Sometimes words evade us. Sometimes we don’t pray the prayers we really mean to or want to pray, because we’re locked into wanting to be crafty, articulate.

What are some of the things that have shaped your perspective and attitude toward prayer?

As I wrote the questions above I realised that there are both negative and positive things that have shaped my prayer life (whatever that is). As I’ve said, I shared some of that in this post. If you haven’t read it check it out and let’s have a conversation.

You can do that either with me, others but most importantly with God.

I know, for sure, that one of the biggest approach and “attitude shapers” when it comes to God, is our understanding of who God is. As my view of God has matured, so has my prayer life. Sometimes I think I’ve regressed. See-saw. At other times I’ve adopted, knowingly and otherwise, other people’s approaches and practices.

I have been guilty of creating a chasm between God and myself (if ever that is possible, but you know what I mean… I’ve done this by embracing barriers and practices that I’ve created myself or adopted from others.

Probably my most earnest prayer ever is this one here. I am convinced it’s probably the most defining prayer we can pray. Nothing can define us more than God encounters. And, they are birthed in earnestness in prayer.

[Photo Credit: ninastoessinger]

Who Am I Serving?

This scripture just struck me like a lightening bolt. Fear filled my heart as I read it.

It is the light of the Word that’s bringing to light that when I fear people, their opinions and even their threats more than God, in that instant I serve man. Do I sometimes serve fear more than God?

The answer to this question doesn’t come easy. Not because it is a difficult one; because it is not the one I’d rather give every time. Sometimes I do let fear get the best of me and I end up not serving God nor His purposes for others.

Thus when the motives for my action are in fear of people, I serve people more than I do God. Unsettling!

I must remember that God is jealous. He will only have me if He has complete ownership and not as a shareholder.

The only approval of me that matters is His. Not my approval of myself or anyone of me. His.

I Am Jonah.

God help me. Sometimes I want to please man, more than you. There are times I am aware of this and at other times I realise this when I’m already caught up.

Give me courage to disappoint man, especially when I am that man. In my life be supreme. I am wholly yours. May my love and respect for you be stronger than the desire to be loved by man. May you be the first and only say in my life. Amen.

Demeaning Assignments God Gives Me

I’ve met many people with crazy, insane stories about how they encountered God. I’ve also heard many stories about how people have seen visions and got “a word from God” in some fireworks-spectacular-way. I get jealous, sometimes. Why can’t God speak to me like He did or does with others?

Something else that also kinda messes me up is how God seems to let others do cooler stuff than me. I’m not saying He shouldn’t have given some assignments to other people. I just wish He’d spread out some of those assignments to me too.

It’s almost as if other Christ followers get ice cream and I get peas and oats. Bleh. After all I want to do it for His glory. Well, honestly sometimes my motives are messed up. (There are times where I try to steal God’s shine.)

Demeaning Assignments God Gives Me

When I read Jonah 1:1 it says, God’s word came to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh. There isn’t much detail on how it came. It seems somehow God was more concerned about His word getting to Jonah than He was about furore in its delivery.

Maybe it was dramatic. Fireworks, trumpets and all. Or may be it was when Jonah was having his first cup of coffee of the day while reading scrolls God penned through Moses. Or he was fishing, trying to catch his supper. (I just had to throw that one in. Jonah and fish, you know… Hehe…)

I’m sometimes responsible for demeaning assignments God gives me. I sometimes get caught up in that they did not “come to me” in any spectacular way.

I sometimes forget that the supernatural is not always spectacular [Click to Tweet]

I undermine the assignments God gives me when I’m more concerned about how they come than Who they come from. I undermine God’s assignments when I want to be the rock star. I seek ‘rock star status’ when I want to put myself and not the ultimate object, God’s glory at the center.

I forget that the worth of God’s assignment is in Who they come from and what they ought to accomplish [Click to Tweet]

It is not how God’s word comes when He gives me assignments, but that He does. What is important is that I’m an agent of His love to the world and not the magnet of spotlights.

God, help me keep everything in perspective… I’m sorry for messing with lives you wanted me to touch by being caught up in how I wanted attention. Forgive me. I Am Jonah. Amen.

[Photo Credit: See Modern Britain]

Success When God Sends

Jonah’s story, the one in the Bible, starts with God’s word “coming” to Jonah (Jonah 1:1). (This is one of those moments my head says, “Whatever that means”). God reaches and speaks to us differently at different times, as different people.

God sends us. How humbling.

Related:

ME | What The Assignments God Gives Reveal (Part 1)

GOD | What The Assignments God Gives Us Reveal [Part 2]

OTHERS | What The Assignments God Gives Us Reveal [Part 3]

So, God sends Jonah, he didn’t go where he should have at first, but ended up seeing an entire city turn to God. What a story. I sometimes get caught up imagining that. Reaching an entire city, right up to its king.

Success When God Sends

I read this and don’t understand why silly Jonah got upset with that. Who wouldn’t want a city turning to God, as God’s sent person to that city? Jonah had what many Christ followers call, “A successful” ministry.

I want one. A successful ministry that is. I have these moments I imagine myself being “used of God” (that voice in my head again, “whatever that means”) that entire cities turn to Him. Ministry should be like that. Because God is with us, we must see “great responses and harvests”

(I feel “polluted” with jargon.)

I mean I’ve heard Daniel 11:32 preached… You know, “Those who know their God will do great things.” Does that “great things” mean I’ll get to stand in front of thousands to preach? Is great defined by the number of people who come to “hear me” preach or read my blogs?

Do I have the same definition of “great things” as God does?

It is the discrepancy between God’s definitions and mine that cause frustration in me [Click to Tweet]

In fact, these discrepancies are the source of my biggest disappointments with God. Why hasn’t God done this or that? One of the reasons is that simple: I have imposed my definitions of success and His will on Him. God doesn’t honor that.

What if my story is not Jonah’s? What if my story is Jeremiah’s, who from a young age preached as God sent him and so nothing as “dramatic and grand” as Jonah?

Jeremiah hardly had success like Jonah, if any. He preached throughout his life and every time he did, things got bad for him. He was arrested, thrown in a well and ridiculed. Had God sent him? Yes.

Am I willing to be in discomfort for the sake of God sending me?

There are times God has sent me, and I knew it was God sending me. However, somewhere along the way I battled separating what God wanted from what I wanted. I was clear about what the goal was. But somehow my selfish ambition and ego tried to feature in the execution.

Has “success” when God sends us, become subjective… to us and not by God’s standards? [Click to Tweet]

I pray I don’t get it twisted. I don’t ever want to get caught up in the belief that the more crowds I preach to the more successful and blessed I am. I don’t want the attention I draw or fail to draw to be the measure of God’s blessing on what I do or the assignments I know He’s called me too.

I’m confident that God was equally happy with Jonah and Jeremiah meeting their assignments. (Well He wasn’t happy about Jonah’s whining after, but you get the point I’m trying to make. Right?)

Sometimes I Am Just Jonah, when it comes to aligning God’s will and mine.

God, may doing exactly what you send me to do be enough. Help me never to make anything else more important. May my success be enough in being true only to you and where you send me. Amen.

[Photo Credit: StockMonkeys.com]

Called To Be, NOT To Reflect

I’ve fallen into the trap of believing what other preachers, like me have preached: we’re called to reflect the light of God, so that the world can see Him.

Not true; we’re called to BE the light. Reflecting the light means I don’t become what God wants me to be but point to Him.

The best way for the world to see and glorify God is through being the light not playing a reflector.

We are partakers with Jesus (2 Peter 1:3-15) not mere reflectors.

Matthew 5:14-16

Being mere reflectors, as I and others have ‘preached’, makes us focus only on doing. Being the light forces us to also focus on what we’re becoming. It is not enough to talk about God or His work in our lives, but rather to epitomize it. To make it, to borrow from John, flesh. Tangible. Visible.

By being the light, the world will see and glorify God by how I live. By who I am and become as I follow Christ.

I’ve been caught in that trap. Trying to be a reflector instead of the embodiment. Yet, I must be the picture for the world to see, if I do it right they world will know I could never be what I am or do what I do of myself, but only through God.

I’ve been made to, and made others, believe that we are called to be reflectors. No we’re called to be the light.

Jesus said we are the light of the world, NOT reflectors of the light [Click to Tweet]